This durable, clean machine doesn't get in the way of any of this experience and, in my opinion, that's the best an espresso maker can do.
Positive Product Points
Solid, simple build. Has essential components, such as a solenoid valve.
Negative Product Points
Takes time to cool down after steaming, if additional shots are desired.
I came to buy this espresso maker with no experience making espresso, just the interest of a foodie who needs his coffee every morning. Having let the glut of machines with electronic controls and vintage looks settle down to reality, I stumbled on Ascaso and immediately found it to at least look more sensical. The essential hardware is there and the price seemed on the lower end of machines in its class. And, I may be going out on a limb of cynicism, but I suspect Ascaso realizes it's got some proving to do around various parts of the world where other brands rule. I went for it, finally escaping the vortex of online reviews with who-knows-what alterior motives, caffeinated dementia, and snarky generalities.
After a couple months, I've been content and comfortable with my purchase. Nothing has *gone wrong.* Now, that said, what really counts, once you've gotten a reasonable machine, is practice. First I set my Rancilio Rocky to 10 (5 ticks lower or higher didn't seem to work) and then played around with the quantity (14-18 g in the double filter basket) and tamping (sorry, don't have a scale to constantly weigh myself with and practice that 40-lb tamp). Oh, of course the draw (pull?) time and visualization of the shot's color evolution (the most exciting part, aside from drinking). Next, quickly clean the head and portafilter, switch on the steam setting (remember, this is the Uno, single boiler model), and watch the temperature gauge climb (~30 seconds? doesn't worry me). Then, let some water out of the spout into the wash tray below, swing the spout over, and rip into some milk. No worries on running out of steam for a nearly full pitcher to 140-160 degrees F. Switch off the steam and, if more shots are wanted, wait for about 5 minutes to cool back to the proper temperature (this aspect may motivate you to explore a dual boiler machine instead). That's essentially it; of course, more to learn, more technique to practice. I may be way off on some of what I'm doing, but so far it's been hard to find a better espresso outside my home than in.
This machine doesn't get in the way of any of this experience and, in my opinion, that's the best a machine can do. Durable and clean, and no computer mother board waiting to fry in the next lightning storm.
Bought from cookingnaturals.com for a bit less than other vendors. However, they turned out to be a middle person for 1st-line, who actually sent me the machine (although they sell it for less than 1st-line...hmm). CN did also send some coffee and a thoughtful note. The communication via email is from an actual person, not instantaneous, but timely.